Medicine News

Oklahoma court orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for helping fuel opioid epidemic

For the part it played in helping to fuel our nation’s opioid epidemic, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been ordered to pay $572.1 million to the state of Oklahoma, an amount far lower than what the state’s attorney general had originally anticipated.

Attorney General Mike Hunter had reportedly sued J&J for $17 billion, hoping to be awarded at least a substantial fraction of this amount to help cover the costs associated with the epidemic of opioid abuse in his state. But the final award was far lower – a mere drop in the bucket for J&J, which profited to the tune of billions with its illicit opioid racket.

“The expectation was this was going to be a $1.5 billion to $2 billion fine,” stated Jared Holz, a healthcare strategist for Jefferies & Co., to Reuters. “$572 million is a much lower number than had been feared.”

J&J shareholders and investors were ecstatic about the news, as they, too, had expected a much higher fine than this measly $572 million. Consequently, J&J shares were up two percent in extended trading, and had an initial gain of more than five percent.

Even so, J&J is still planning to appeal the ruling, which is extremely light considering the fact that upwards of 6,000 Oklahomans have died from opioid overdoses since the year 2000, an amount to which J&J certainly contributed.

Hopefully these numbers are beginning to subside, seeing as how Oklahomans have since voted to legalize medical cannabis, which is significant because research shows that in areas where medical cannabis is legal, rates of opioid abuse and opioid deaths are substantially lower compared to prohibition areas.

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Oklahoma’s lawsuit against J&J is just one of about 2,500 others filed by states, counties, and municipalities

As disappointing as this judgment turned out to be, J&J is hardly out of the water when it comes to its liability for the consequences of opioid abuse. Some 2,500 additional lawsuits against J&J and other opioid manufacturers have also been filed by other states, as well as counties and municipalities, that similarly want to hold Big Pharma accountable for fueling the opioid crisis.

Chances are that J&J and these other companies will try to settle as many of these cases as possible, rather than allow them to go to trial – Oklahoma’s being the first such case to go to trial. But either way, J&J is going to have to pay up, and hopefully with these other cases it will have to pay up a lot.

“The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans,” stated Judge Thad Balkman of Cleveland County District Court in Norman, following the seven-week, non-jury trial.

J&J has already asked for the $572.1 million award to be put on hold while the company forms an appeal, which, if granted, could extend well into 2021. The company also insists that its opioid products are safe; were marketed legally; and did not contribute to the “public nuisance” that the state of Oklahoma claimed in its suit.

“There’s going to be people struggling with this for years,” stated Lance Land, a 36-year-old recovering opioid addict turned activist from Oklahoma City, who told the media that Judge Balkman’s award judgment is “short sighted,” and hardly enough to compensate the state for victims like himself who have a long recovery road ahead of them.

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